Drawing New Red Lines
Editor's Column
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Fyodor A. Lukyanov

Russia in Global Affairs
National Research University–Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia
Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs
Research Professor;
Valdai Discussion Club
Research Director


SPIN RSCI: 4139-3941
ORCID: 0000-0003-1364-4094
ResearcherID: N-3527-2016
Scopus AuthorID: 24481505000


E-mail: [email protected]
Tel.: (+7) 495 980 7353
Address: Office 112, 29 Malaya Ordynka Str., Moscow 115184, Russia

The resignation of Mikhail Fradkov’s government was the formal
beginning of the change of power in Russia. This process will be
completed by summer 2008. By that time, Russia will have a new
parliament, a new president and a new Cabinet, and it will become
clear what role Vladimir Putin will choose for himself.

There is no sense at this point in making forecasts about the
the Kremlin’s future foreign policy because Putin’s style makes
predictions impossible. In addition, the situation in Russia and
the world is changing too fast for us to keep up. Just when we
think we understand the state of global affairs, it turns out that
the situation has changed once again.

The last year of Putin’s presidency could be described as a time
of strategic breakthrough. Russia has reached a new status on the
international arena. Its foreign policy line has changed
dramatically, taking a much tougher and more aggressive tone.

The government is drawing its own «red lines,» as Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov recently put it, with regard to its global
status, its immediate security and the basic principles that
determine international order. Moreover, it is less inclined to
make compromises.

A tough and persistent policy like this would be impossible if a
«technical president,» in the form of Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov,
were to become the next president.

The division of functions between the nominal head of state and
the real leader will either cause Moscow to moderate its activity
or lead to failures in the entire system. Such a model may require
an increased role for the Foreign Ministry. Diplomats will find
themselves in a difficult position, however, as they will not know
whom they should be guided by or whom they should appeal to.

If things develop this way, the style — and possibly the
content — of government’s policy, which is now set by Putin, may
grow more moderate.

Before that happens, however, the last few months of the current
presidency could be marked by even tougher and more aggressive
actions aimed at completing Putin’s strategic breakthrough. Then,
the next leader will be able to pose as a peacemaker and initiator
of more constructive cooperation, starting the bargaining from a
more advantageous position. At the same time, Putin will assume the
role of an informal negotiator with the West on certain delicate

Much will depend on the new leader’s personality. There is no
sense in trying to guess who will be the new leader, but we can
safely assume that the following underlying principle of Putin’s
conservative policy will continue to play a dominate role: Western
principles, which seemed as if they were universally correct after
the end of the Cold War, have failed. Solutions proposed by the
West are often erroneous and fail to produce the desired results.
The West has weakened itself over the last few years by making poor
and ideologically motivated decisions. Quite a number of problems
that have arisen over the last 15 years were caused by the
implementation of these erroneous policies. The West was driven by
a feeling of indisputable moral and intellectual self-righteousness
after the collapse of communism.

On the whole, the ruling elite views the United States as a
factor of international instability. A few days ago, Gleb
Pavlovsky, a political analyst close to the Kremlin, wrote: «There
is a universal demand for checking the American expansionism. …
Any actions by Russia in this field, even if they are not publicly
approved, will be tacitly supported by the majority of mankind.»
Public opinion against the United States has truly reached a
critical level.

In its forecasts for the development of the global system,
Moscow assumes that things have not been developing the way they
were expected after the Cold War. This is seen in the larger role
of national states, the universal rise of protectionist ideas and
the increased significance of the military force as a factor in
international affairs.

Since new rules and norms have not yet been established, Russia
does not need to integrate with anyone. This freedom of action
broadens possibilities. Interestingly, Putin and U.S. President
George W. Bush find themselves in a somewhat similar situation as
they reach the end of their terms — both countries are
experiencing serious difficulties with their allies. The only
difference is that Washington considers this to be a big problem,
while Moscow does not.

Russia will not be absolutely alone, even if it has no official
allies. Problems keep growing, and many people in the world
understand this, although not all dare to speak about it. Tactical
cooperation among countries is highly welcome because «the mission
defines the coalition.»

The new president will have to address the following
foreign-policy problems:

• The need to build reliable energy contacts with neighbors and
resolve disputes with its client states. This is the key to
normalizing its relations with former Soviet republics and to
overcoming its deadlock with the European Union.

• Russia will have to think of building more stable relations
with its allies. The absence of countries on which Moscow can rely
weakens its global position.

• The security issue, including the deployment of a missile
defense system in Eastern Europe, NATO’s enlargement and the future
of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, will remain
acute, and changes in the government’s position on these issues are
not expected.

• The Kremlin needs to be proactive in establishing its own
agenda. Until now, Moscow used to reject models and solutions
proposed by the West, but it was unable to formulate a viable

We can expect that the basic principles of the Putin policy will
remain in force because in the next few years, both Russia and the
rest of the world will remain in a dynamic state, and it will be
simply impossible for them to «fix their profits.»

The exact shape of Russia’s long-term foreign policy and of a
more stable situation in the world will, most likely, begin to show
up only in the next decade.

| The Moscow